Somehow, five months have dissolved since I last published a report of our progress towards making a digital nomad living. So, what have we been up? Well, we’ve made visa runs to Penang and Hanoi, taken a spin on the Mae Hong Son Loop, celebrated our four-year travelversary and taken up yoga. Oh, in case you missed it, we also got married and started planning our onward adventures to Nepal and Sri Lanka. That might all sound exciting, but daily life in Chiang Mai has mainly been all about work. So, what have we achieved?
What we’ve been working on
I’ve been focusing hard on freelance writing, which is starting to pay off. I now have four clients and a steadier income, yet I’m still finding my feet and learning hard lessons about being a freelancer. The blog has taken a back seat lately but I’m publishing at least once a week and we’re occasionally accepting advertising, plus making a small amount from affiliates. I’ve also finally finished writing our Teaching in Vietnam e-book, which Andrew is now designing. Our big goal is to have that finished and up on the site before we leave Chiang Mai in – gasp – just seven weeks’ time!
Andrew has been doing about 15 hours of online teaching a week, which provides a steady, reliable income stream. His students are based in France, which means it’s difficult to take on extra hours because of the time difference. Rather than look for work with another company though, Andrew is dedicating time to designing the e-book, creating videos and trying to boost our social media channels, which is something we’ve seriously neglected over the years.
Income update November 2016 – February 2017
Here’s a breakdown of how our digital nomad income has developed since our first report in October 2016. As always, we share this information in the hope that it will help and inspire other remote workers like us who are just starting out. It’s also super-useful and motivating for us to see how much progress we’re making.
|Income source||November 2016||December 2016||January 2017||February 2017|
|Blog & affiliates||£199.08||£118||£253.74||£495.29|
We’re happy to see that the long hours we’ve been working are paying off, but it hasn’t all been smooth sailing. Here’s a look at some of the challenges and issues we’ve been wrestling with as remote workers.
Fears, doubts and staying inspired
A growing income hasn’t silenced my niggling self-doubts or fears. I still have periods of sometimes crippling anxiety over the insecure nature of freelance work and there are moments when I feel totally out of my depth. In fact, I had one just last night when I got tongue-tied discussing rates with a client over Skype and ended up feeling like a total fraud. Added to that, I’m finding that writing full-time again for money, as I used to back in London, stifles my creativity and sucks some of the joy out of the writing process.
When I lived in London, I dealt with this problem by taking a creative writing evening course. I joined groups where I could share work with other writers and collaborate on charity writing projects, just for fun. I spent time journalling and writing stories, purely for my own enjoyment and sanity. Eventually, I launched this blog as a space to practise my travel writing and it has provided a vital creative outlet for me. Lately though, partly because of work pressures, I feel like my blog posts have been pretty uninspiring and that makes me sad.
Fortunately, this month I read Liz Gilbert’s Big Magic, which touches on these very themes of dealing with fear, finding inspiration and fostering creativity. This book has really encouraged me to start making time for creative writing again, whether it’s for this blog, other publications, or just for me. I’m hoping that our upcoming trip to Nepal will give me the space away from work to start doing just that.
Working while travelling
On a more practical note, we’ve been learning a bit about how to manage our workload while we travel. During our recent visa run to Vietnam, for instance, I had to take time out to complete some assignments. This didn’t work out too badly when thick fog left us hotel-bound in Sapa, but it was hellish when I ended up crunched over my laptop with a huge headache, battling terrible Wi-Fi, at an airport departure lounge. Balancing online work with travel is definitely going to take some practice.
Today, our yoga teacher Weena gleefully recounted the story of our first ever lesson. “You were terrible! So young, but hunched over like old people!” I’d like to report that my posture has miraculously improved since then, but I think Weena would disagree. Yep, yoga is definitely a slow and steady learning curve for me. I know that the root cause of my problem is working on a laptop, but with deadlines to meet and money to earn, it’s a necessary evil. I am trying to prioritise my health though, so as well as going to yoga twice a week, we’re making an effort to swim every day and eat healthily. Nevertheless, I suspect we won’t find out what our bodies are really made of until we start trekking and volunteering in Nepal.
Spending too much
Speaking of Nepal, we finally realised that unless we wanted to walk to Everest base camp in flip flops, we were going to have to buy some walking shoes. Now, we’ve developed a strong frugal streak over the last 10 years and fully endorse the merits of a minimalist lifestyle, but in this case we reluctantly spent substantially more than we normally would on sturdy, waterproof shoes. As painful as that purchase was, we reasoned that there’s no point going all the way to Nepal and then crippling ourselves with rubbish footwear.
Shoes are just the beginning though. There are also internal flights to book and supplies to pick up, including a tent and sleeping bags for volunteering. The Frugal Freddies within us panic every time we go through our expenses and see money flying out of our account. Even though we’re earning a decent amount it definitely feels like we should be saving more, but we aren’t because we’re constantly planning future adventures. For the rest of our time in Chiang Mai, we’re making an effort to spend as little as possible and save as much as we can.
Balancing work and travel in the coming months
Unbelievably, we’ve been in Chiang Mai for seven months now and our time here is rapidly coming to an end. Although the thought of leaving this sanctuary we’ve built for ourselves makes me sad, I’m also ready to get out and travel again. Between trekking, volunteering and discovering a country we’ve never been to before, Nepal is going to be one hell of an adventure. We’re also making tentative plans now for our time in Sri Lanka, a country we’ve heard nothing but glowing stories about. These adventures will come at a cost though and we know our earnings will take a sharp nosedive. How we deal with this in the months ahead remains to be seen, but we’ll keep you updated.
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In the meantime, please let us know in the comments below whether you find these reports useful and ask away if you have any questions. We’d also love to hear any advice you may have for us about working remotely.